Monday, September 2, 2013

Gone but not forgotten

It's been a long summer.  In April, I wrote to let you know my uncle had died unexpectedly.  A few weeks later, a different uncle of the same name also passed away.  On Tuesday, my grandfather died.  It's an interesting coincidence that these three men were all named James, and that despite their disparate ages (56, 60, 89) all died within such a short time period.

I've done a lot of reflecting over the past several days, and I wanted to say a few words about my grandfather, then write a few things about where I go from here.  I've subdivided this so you can skip parts you're not interested in.

James R King
My grandfather was the original stat-man in our family.  He quite literally wrote the book on it.  As we went through his stuff this weekend, I was amused to find that he had also been the original stats blogger in the family.  Apparently he had spent years running a stats newsletter where he wrote about stats topics that interested him and then sent it out to those who payed him $10 or so for the privilege of reading his thoughts. Judging by his archives, it seems to me quite a few people were interested in what he had to say.

My grandfather was truly a man of his time in many many ways.  He was hard working, hard drinking, driven by duty to God, country, family, intellectual curiosity and deep desire to see things work correctly.  He served in two wars (WWII, Korea), helped put a man on the moon, and had a deep disdain for stupidity.  As recently as a few months ago, he was grilling me about how to apply quality principles to health services environments.  He was annoyed that the administration of his assisted living facility wouldn't take him on as an operational consultant.  He wasn't trying to get money, he was just annoyed that things could be done better.  I'm not sure they ever knew how much free brain power they lost.

Since I got the new on Tuesday, I've been reflecting on what it means to watch another member of the greatest generation slip away.  For me, I have lost not only a grandfather, but someone who understood my way of viewing the world.  For all that "geek culture" has become mainstream, it's still a bit of a lonely life for those of us who prefer to view the world through numbers and systems, and my grandfather was one of the few people I could count on to always know how I felt.  I'll be raising a martini or two over a spreadsheet or three in his memory, I'm sure.

The Future of this Blog
Three deaths in 5 months is a lot, especially when the people involved were meaningful to your family structure.  I've been slow in posting this summer, and at this point, I've realized I need a complete break.  I started this blog as a fun project to work out some frustrations I had about political campaigns, and it worked well for that.  I've loved the readers I've had and the conversations that took place here.  I hope to get back to this at some point, to renew those conversations, but right now I don't have it in me.

On the other hand...
I have some projects in the works you all might be interested in.  First and foremost, this blog has helped start an ongoing conversation with my (science teacher) brother about what it would take to give kids a good sense of how to apply math and science to the media that bombards them, and give them a good sense of practical scientific literacy.  These discussions have led to us start collaborating on an e-book/curriculum guide of sorts.  The idea is it would be a bit like this blog adapted for a classroom setting....a sort of "here's how you take the dry concepts you're hearing and here's when you should use them in the real world".  I'll be posting periodic updates on this project, so you can check back for those.

Also, I know many of my readers have pretty awesome blogs of their own.  I'm always available for guest posts and/or random stats commentary if you miss me :).

Again, I want to thank everyone who has made this blog such a fun place for me to write.  The internet certainly has it's ups and downs, but (in the words of the AVI) I have been happy to be part of this "small but excellent corner" of it.

Keep being 2SD above the norm, and good luck out there.


  1. My condolences on your losses, most seriously the drive to write here.

    I have long been interested in the truths that statistics can expose and can hide, but incurably inept at getting useful information from the data when I turn the crank myself. If you decide toe leave a hole (Not clear to me whether you did or not) I will be sad.

    I read a lot of blogs and such everyday (my only source of current events information) and use a semi-mechanized feed, so I'll have to move you to an inactive (and seldom read) list if the traffic here falls off.

    But to thine own self be true, and G*d's speed.

  2. Best wishes.

    I too had a death in the family recently; though not a person with whom I had such rapport. I offer whatever comfort my condolences might provide.

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  4. Sorry to see this go on hiatus, but the good news for me is that you continually challenge me to think critically about news and events when I have started to become lazy in that regard. Our almost daily conversations will continue to do that, but this forum was something I enjoyed to see how you think and how other people react to that.

  5. Well the title should have something catchy like "Lie" or "Deceive" in it, and you could spread your default suspicion of any infographic with this course.

    Quizzes could be seeing through things on videos. I also recommend that the students produce their own lies and deceptions as assignments. Make up a product or a theory and have the two sides work to shamelessly show it is good or bad.

  6. Sorry for your loses. What a year.
    Your blog has been great. I've enjoyed reading it and it's changed how I think about and interpret data. (and I'll miss the Friday Fun Links).

  7. So sorry to hear about your latest loss. I can't imagine what a difficult year it has been for you.

    Will miss the blog. Although life often gets in my way of blogging (or even keeping up with others' blogs), I really enjoyed yours and often pulled ideas to tie in to my AP Language class. Best of luck with the curriculum idea--there's a lot we in the field of rhetoric find useful about a proper understanding of stats & data & I'd love to get a peek at anything that might be applicable for my classes!